- Response to Regnault
The article by Jean-Marc Regnault on "The Nuclear Issue in the South Pacific" calls for a few reservations about the way it approaches the French nuclear tests in French Polynesia.1
The "Anglophone Plot"
In this article, the author upholds the tired thesis of the "Anglophone plot" against the French presence in the Pacific. Thus he considers that the reactions to the installation of the Pacific Testing Center ( CEP ) in the early 1960s came from New Zealand and Australia and that if the Tahitian pastors intervened in the debate, it was only, in the words of General de Gaulle (cited without giving the source) because they had been stirred up against France by the English and American pastors.
This representation is contrary to reality, to which one is astonished that Regnault judged it useless to refer. On 7 September 1966 in Papeete, Deputy of Polynesia John Teariki pronounced a very virulent indictment against the nuclear tests in front of General de Gaulle, who came to "push the button" of the next blast over Moruroa.2 As for knowing whether the Polynesian representatives of the era had been influenced by the "anti-nuclear" New Zealanders or Australians, it is necessary to advise Regnault to ask one of the last surviving representatives of this era, Mr Jean-Baptiste Céran-Jérusalemy, who recalls that, not understanding English, the Polynesian representatives had hardly any contacts in the Anglophone countries of the Pacific.
The questioning of the "Tahitian pastors" is still more crass. Is it necessary to recall—again a work not cited by Regnault—that the sociological inquiry conducted among the former workers on Moruroa in 1996 [End Page 373] showed that the Evangelical Church was very divided about the CEP installation and that some pastors urged their own parishioners to go to work on Moruroa?3 It was only in 1982 that the Evangelical Church pronounced itself firmly against the tests. In contrast, one of the first religious leaders to criticize the French nuclear tests in Polynesia was Pastor Jean Adnet. In 1966, moreover, this French pastor was "exiled" from Tahiti for over six months on the orders of the Elysée [ie, the French presidency], and it required a personal intercession by the president of the Protestant Federation of France to General de Gaulle to enable Adnet to regain his pastoral post in Tahiti.We are thus far from the "Anglophone plot" for which the Evangelical Church would be the Trojan Horse—a thesis largely inspired by historical fantasies that to this day fuel tensions between the French administration and the Polynesian protestants.4
Unfamiliar with the Protestant Church from that missionary era before its autonomy in 1963, Regnault can only reproduce writings that others like himself want to believe. Certainly due to this ignorance, he passes over in complete silence the preoccupations of the Protestant Church from 1958 to 1963 and reconstructs the history of the Evangelical Church in his own way.
Regnault would have us believe that the Protestant Church's position on the nuclear issue is of an "obscurantist" type, based on Oceanian myths and religious convictions, although in reality, atomic weapons should only be considered as "instruments of deterrence."
In this area, Regnault's proposals show a distrust of the theological reflections of churches—not only Protestant—on themes linked to respect for the environment, notably the ecumenical work developed in the conciliatory process "Justice, Peace and Safeguarding Creation" ( JPSC ). The churches of the entire world, not only the Pacific, endorse this "Theology of Life," which questions the very principle of weapons of mass destruction. Is it illegitimate for a church—especially a church implanted where nuclear tests take place—to occupy itself with the health and future of the people to whom it is sent, or must we consider such preoccupations a sign of ignorance and obscurantism?
In presenting the opposition of the churches and countries of the Pacific to nuclear arms that they consider "instruments of total destruction" and not "instruments of deterrence," Regnault obscures factual reality. Contrary [End Page 374] to the nuclear doctrines that circulate far from the sites of...